Break out, sympoh urban Arts Crew’s seventh annual show, proves the true extent of break-dancing talent available on Princeton’s campus. This show stretches itself to include a variety of genres, including gymnastics, ballet, hip-hop and lyrical-infused movements. Sympoh’s solid foundation of break dance continually shines through, as dancers easily hit gravity-defying poses and agile freezes. While sometimes the pieces struggle to fit within the show’s incredibly specific storyline, the theme is fresh and artistry apparent.
Often if a choreographer decides to create a thematic arc for any singular piece, you can expect that it will feature the same played-out storyline: Boy meets girl, boy and girl experience conflict, boy gets girl in the end. In “Break Out,” Sympoh shatters this mold and crafts a tale of self-discovery as dancer Jason travels to meet his long-lost convict father. Sympoh connects individual pieces to this overarching theme with video fillers, acting and committed choreography, with only a few missteps.
While one might predict that a break dancing crew’s performance would mostly feature dance battles, Sympoh has expanded its range to include intricate choreographic choices. The show starts off strong with “Let It Begin,” as dancers partake in an entertaining Gangnam Style opening, which showcases gymnastic ability as well as provocative gyration. Sympoh’s male dancers shine in the first number, proving their strength in synchronized breaking moves, while their female counterparts lend gymnastic ability and plenty of sass.
The first half only continues to build on the dance ability highlighted in the show opener. While pieces like “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” and “The Story of Denmark and Mimi” are high-energy and impressively physical, it is “All Mankind” that steals the show. Four male dancers, all dressed as mimes, beautifully interpret an arrangement of Regina Spektor’s song “Human of the Year.” Only three dancers are ever on the stage at once, and they blend more exaggerated miming movements with slow breaking moves. This piece is introspective — a complete departure from the typical showiness of a break-dance battle. The dancers move in unison, their expressions and motions totally in sync. The juxtaposition of difficult breaking moves with slow lyrical interpretation makes this piece an absolute high point.
Sympoh’s second half opens with “Battle!” — an authentic look at a break-dance crew battle. Taking the show back to its break-dance roots is refreshing after a first half dominated by theme and choreography. However, the second half peaks with “Prisoner’s Remorse,” an interpretation of a jailbird number by choreographer Willa Chen ’13. The dancers are clad in orange jumpsuits as they perform to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Dancers commit to very physical choreography including push-ups, mountain climbers and impossibly long headstands. A section of this piece includes balletic movement, which breaks up the intensity of the prisoners’ performance. This piece fits thematically with Jason’s search for his prisoner father.
The sections where Sympoh slips up are often where the company tries too hard to fit individual pieces into a single storyline. The video fillers, while entertaining, are rather long and break up the forward momentum of the show. Certain pieces also don’t seem to make sense with the general arc of the show, including “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre,” and “Friends.” In “Friends,” couples take to the stage, performing to the song “Fever.” Unfortunately, there are not enough people on the stage to make this piece visually appealing, and chemistry is lacking between the couples. In addition, the show doesn’t close out as strongly as it opened, with the company closer lacking as much energy as the rest of the pieces. It’s easy to tell why the dancers would end more tired than they began, with cool freezes and flips exhausting the performers’ energy. Dancers will need to bring the heat this weekend during their company finale to close out the show on a high note.
Despite these minor issues, “Break Out” is a triumph for Sympoh Urban Arts Crew. Dancers leave their hearts and energy on the stage, all in the name of providing the best show possible for Princeton’s student body. Come see incredible strength, flexibility and variety, as well as music that will have you dancing in your seat. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
3.5 out of 5 paws.
Pros: Fresh storyline, gravity-defying movements.
Cons: Long video fillers, loss of momentum toward the end.